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The Game Awards show is returning December 10 as an all-digital event with awards presentations, musical performances, and game premieres — this time in three cities.
The celebration of video game culture will be livestreamed on more than 45 video platforms around the world, and it will be simulcast by thousands of influencers as well. On top of that, it will add new awards such as an honor for the best accessibility in a game.
Geoff Keighley, creator of the “Oscars of gaming” (as the event is often called), said in an interview with GamesBeat that the online-only event could have a wider reach than last year’s combined physical and digital event, which drew nearly 50 million viewers and had a peak audience of 7.7 million.
“It’s pretty much live on every platform globally,” Keighley said. “It’s also been growing in a big way with the co-streamers, who are all the content creators sharing the show. Twitch, for instance, had more than 4,000 creators sharing the show. It’s going to be even bigger this year.”
The multimillion-dollar event will also have another Game Festival, where fans can get access to demos on platforms like Steam. Typically, Keighley holds the event at the Microsoft Theater in Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, where 5,000 fans, developers, and celebrities gather.
“It’s a big year with the console launches and general excitement around the industry,” Keighley said. “We’ve seen all these digital events doing really well. The Gamescom show we did an August was up four times from what it was last year. Twitch and YouTube have heavy traffic. Those things encouraged us to go forward with the show in December, even though we didn’t know what it would look like.”
The event can’t have an in-person crowd year because of the pandemic, so live shooting will happen at small soundstages in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and London.
“One of my dreams from the show is to move it around to different cities, and I always used to say we could try it in Tokyo or in London,” Keighley said. “And this year, because of the unique situation we’re in, we’re going to be able to have live stages in Tokyo and London and Los Angeles. But we’re not going to have a big public audience at any of the venues for safety reasons.”
The all-live show will have presenters going up one at a time to announce awards, and the recipients will not be told ahead of time that they won, Keighley said. The event will have some scripted events, such as musical performances and announcements of new games.
Without a live audience, Keighley said the show will try to get fans excited in other ways, through the participation of the live co-streamers and their audiences, as well as interactions on social media, in-game experiences, and interactive extensions on streaming platforms.
“We’re looking into ways for people to experience the show in different ways,” Keighley said. “We want people to feel part of the show and interact in different ways. We’re thinking of the ‘metaverse’ and the idea of people gathering online to celebrate the show.”
That metaverse idea — the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One — isn’t just science fiction anymore. We’re going to have our own metaverse event on January 27.
Keighley added, “For the future, we want to explore interactivity. We’ve always done things on Twitch with the voting extension, and other ways for the community to be a part of it. But I think you’ll see our show start to become more of a 360 conversation or real-time experience with the audience. How do we turn the show into a game? Or show the awards inside a game? What is the metaverse version of the show?”
Getting back to this year’s show, Keighley said he was excited about offering the award for Innovation in Accessibility, which joins the Global Gaming Citizen program, the Games for Impact award, and other to be announced initiatives as ways to highlight those helping grow and diversify the types of people who create and consume video game entertainment.
“We have specialists and we’ll ask our regular jury what they think about accessibility,” Keighley said. “But I really want people who are experts to recognize the work for a colorblind mode or other things.”
Keighley will be an executive producer, along with Kimmie Kim. LeRoy Bennett returns as creative director for his sixth year, and Richard Preuss returns as director for his fourth year. The event will still employ the 100 or so people it takes to put it on each year.
“I’m really happy all of our core team is coming back,” Keighley said.
To accommodate a global audience, the show will begin a little earlier in the day. The stages will still be impressive, designed for a spectacle.
Keighley said he recently talked to Josef Fares, who famously said on the show, “F*** the Oscars.” He said Fares has a new game coming but would not say if Fares would be a guest on the show.
As for calling it the “Oscars of gaming,” as the New York Times said, Keighley replied, “It’s a shorthand for people who don’t know the industry. I think what it means is that it’s a really important award show for the gaming industry. But it’s so different than any other award show. And it’s really a celebration of the year in games, with awards and premieres.”
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